Are You Stuck in Old-School Email Marketing? Here’s Our 3-Part Solution

Shane Melaugh   29

Updated on December 22, 2019

Too many online marketers are still trying (and inevitably failing) to succeed with old-school email marketing.

A lot of email marketing advice is based on outdated methods and most list-building tools have failed to stay up to date with the changing landscape of email marketing.

In today's video, you'll discover the 3 most important things you can do to bring your list building up to date (and the features in Thrive Leads that help you do it).


This post follows our Upgrade Opt-in Week, in which we released a series of new opt-in form templates for our users. Now, it's time to not only upgrade your opt-in form designs, but also how you use them.

What is Old School Email Marketing?

Old-school email marketing is a common atrategy that made many people wealthy in the early days of online business. It goes like this:

Step 1: on your website, focus all your efforts on getting leads. Do whatever you can to get people to subscribe to your mailing list.

Step 2: once they're on your mailing list, hit those subscribers with promotional messages and affiliate links, non-stop.

Back when email was a relatively new thing, this worked like a charm. Through the email channel, you had people's (almost) undivided attention. And because there was so little competition, it was easy to build up a large list and simply burn your subscribers out with promotional messages. You'd lose many subscribers, but on the whole, more promotion equaled more revenue.

I even remember a particular marketer's advice to send multiple emails a day, simply because he saw his revenue increase when he emailed more often. Were his subscribers annoyed? Most of them, probably. But his bottom line didn't care.

Nowadays, this approach has become ineffective. The average user gets over 100 emails per day, so your subscribers' attention is everything but undivided. Average click-through rates have sunk to low single digits in most industries. And on top of that, promotional messages are automatically sorted away by various filters and algorithms.

As a result of all this, the old-school approach simply isn't effective anymore.

What Works Now?

Email marketing has become relationship marketing. You have to earn the attention of people in your audience.

Email is a great way to create ongoing communication with your audience and to get people to return to your website. Email is also still a strong driver of revenue for most businesses. But you can't take for granted that an email subscriber cares about you, your business or your messages.

What you can do is make use of one of the oldest rules of sales: it takes multiple interactions between a person and a brand or product before that person is ready to make a purchase.

Email is how you can facilitate these multiple interactions. Use it for your content marketing. Use it to send people useful, relevant content and bring them back to your site repeatedly.

Instead of trying to hit people over the head with sales messages, give people a good reason to visit your website and let your website convince them to become customers (incidentally, this is also a GDPR friendly approach to email marketing).

Upgrade #1: Different Content For Your Subscribers

If you want to use your email marketing as a channel to get turn one-time visitors into return visitors, this first strategy is crucial. The goal here is that:

  1. When a new visitor comes to your website, you can optimize for lead generation.
  2. When an existing subscriber comes to your website, you can optimize for something else.

This "something else" can be one of many things. Maybe you just want to have them engage with your content, share it on social media or leave a comment. In this case, you can show them a "clear" website without opt-in offers and interruptions.

Or maybe you have a beginner/ToFu opt-in offer that you show to new visitors and a more advanced/BoFu offer you show to existing subscribers, to get them to progress in your funnel.

Or, as shown in the video, you have an opt-in offer showing to new visitors and an ad for a premium product such as an online course, which you display for people who've already subscribed to your list.

In any case, the one thing you should absolutely stop doing is to ask your subscribers to subscribe!

The feature in Thrive Leads that makes this possible is called SmartLinks. Whenever you send a link to your site or one of your blog posts in an email, generate a SmartLink first. Click here to learn more about SmartLinks.

Upgrade #2: A/B Test All The Things

Which of the 225 templates we released over the last 7 days is the best one? What converts better: a lightbox opt-in form or a Scroll Mat? Should you show your opt-in overlays immediately or after 10 seconds? Or maybe only when the visitor is about to leave? Will a 2-step opt-in increase your conversions?

The answer to all of these questions is: no one knows.

Sure, there are countless examples and case studies that show one type of opt-in form performing better than another. But for most of these, you can also find a case study that proves the opposite (for example, here's an article that shows how more form fields can sometimes increase conversions).

This is because conversion optimization is extremely context dependent. It depends on your website, your visitors, your industry and countless other factors.

The only way to know what really works best for your business and on your website is to test.

In Thrive Leads, you can A/B test everything. Every single one of the questions above can be answered via A/B testing in our plugin. You can test different form types against each other, test different trigger, different copy, different designs... you name it.

Plus, we've made testing not only possible, but also convenient. Check out the video to see an example of a "lazy" test you can run. And here's a post with another such lazy test that yielded surprising results.

Upgrade #3: Improve Your Lead Quality

It's one thing to get more email leads, but it's another to get higher quality email leads.

Ideally, you can have both. The best way to ensure that you get higher quality leads is to increase the targeting and relevance in your opt-in offers.

The basic and bare minimum for any website is to have a single, generic opt-in offer. A catch-all that is related to your business in general and hopefully appeals to most people in your market.

Once you have that, start thinking about adding more specific opt-in offers. To use the example from the video: on a photography themed website, you may offer a guide to optimizing photographs for Instagram as well as a gear guide. These two offers appeal to different segments of your market.

By sending subscribers to different mailing lists or tagging them based on the offer they signed up for, you can send them more targeted, more relevant content.

In Thrive Leads, you can use the targeting feature to show specific opt-in offers based on posts, pages, tags, categories and so on. Or you can create multiple choice opt-in forms and let visitors self-segment.

In either case, the most important thing is what happens after someone subscribes. You can increase lead quality by sending specific content and follow-up messages that are tailored to the segments in your market.

What's Your Next Step?

With this, we've rounded off our Upgrade Opt-in Week.

Now it's up to you: which of the new templates will you use to breathe new life into your site's lead generation? And which of the techniques shown in this post are you going to apply first, to take your email marketing to the next level?

Let us know by leaving a comment below!


by Shane Melaugh  July 16, 2018


Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

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Leave a Comment

  • By default doesn’t Thrive not show a lightbox to someone that has already subscribed that visits the site again? Or do you need to go into and edit the Lightbox and add an “Already Subscribed” state and click the eye icon to force it to not show?

    • Yes, by default an overlay form that someone signed up through will no longer show for that visitor. however, that’s specific to an individual form, not an entire lead group. And if the visitor returns on a different device, we can’t identify them. That’s where SmartLinks come in.

  • Those are fantastic new features. The video presentation is high quality as usual. I found the background music quite distracting. For me, it was not just the particular music track at issue but the volume level too. That aside; keep the good stuff comin’.

    • Thank you for your feedback, Randal!

      The music thing is my fault entirely. Usually Miquel, our video editor, makes sure that the production quality is top notch. This video and post was a last-minute affair and I did the editing myself. Hence the lower quality. 🙂

  • An excellent reminder, thanks Shane. I do find this kind of thing very useful as the range of your offering gets bigger and more complex.

    One thing I tried the other day, which is yielding interesting results, was to add a Thrive Quiz into an opt-in, to segment the opt-ins as they come in and provide extra detail for targeting. Just a few short questions gave me a ton of useful info!

    • Yes, Thrive Quiz Builder takes the segmentation idea to a whole new level! I didn’t mention it here because I didn’t want to go too far into that topic and make the video even longer. 🙂

  • Thankss lot shane. Anyway i will see the post several times because since i from spain there is still somethings that i did not understand completely.

    • Thank you, Juan! Take it step by step. You can’t implement everything presented here right away, but you can build up to it over time. 🙂

  • Muchas Gracias es increíble como debemos buscar mejorar nuestras conversiones. Estar preparados para testear todos nuestros formularios.

  • Impressive! I’m still learning how to use Architect but this looks like the next step on the list of things to learn. Thanks for all the helps and the videos to show them to us.

  • Oh, is that why I’m bombarded with spam from the people I sign up with? Believe me, once a week is all need otherwise, I never open the emails and am annoyed because I have important emails that get buried and that makes trouble for me. I love what you guys do, but do marketers really think our worlds revolve around them? I even unsubscribe and they still email me! I wish you guys would down. Once a week is max. I was about ready to unsubscribe for Thrive as I get several a day. That’s called SPAM.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Arlene!

      We don’t usually mail as often as we have last week, but this is also a question of who you want to cater to. IMO, mailing often isn’t in itself problematic. It depends on the content of the emails you send, more than the frequency.

      That, plus adding subscriber choice is usually good. Unfortunately, that’s often technically difficult to implement.

  • Thanks for all the great info but I’m just starting out and I am so confused in what to do, affiliate marketing, ecommerce, or WHAT?? I need to find some guidance and help! Thanks again and I don’t know if I have 7 day trial or 14 day trial with you, but thanks anyway! I just don’t have any start up money at all, right now!!

    • Thanks for your comment! If you haven’t decided yet what kind of business to start, we don’t have a lot of content for you here. Our focus is on entrepreneurs who are already in the business building phase. However, I think the podcast over at ActiveGrowth could be helpful for you. Check it out here (I recommend you start from episode 1).

  • Shane, thank you for another amazing video. I’m using some of the features but I still love to watch your presentations. Are you planning on creating the presentation for quizzes? I’d love to see that.

    • Thank you for your comment, Irena! I don’t have anything planned yet, but I could make a video about the quizzes yes. Is there anything specific you’d like to learn about them?

  • This is great as usual. My biggest problem at the moment is figuring out how to keep up with the leads and keep them segmented. I use SharpSpring as my marketing automation platform currently for me and my clients and it doesn’t integrate with Thrive Leads. I’m fine with manually importing leads into SharpSpring for now, but I need to get them captured somewhere by Thrive Leads where that’s possible and I haven’t figured out a good in-between solution yet. Any suggestions? I’ve even considered going ahead and building an integration myself.

  • Great video Shane. I have been a member for about year now and you still give more value. I have a feeling that Thrive Themes is preparing for some big features soon (Regardless of the new theme builder). I hope can market and sell our products using thrive only (through integrations, such so Woocomerce).

  • Hello Shane,

    thank you for reminding me to use these features 🙂

    If I use the smart links, can they handle unsubscribed contacts too (and show the optin forms again)?

    I think the smart links feature depends on the database which is collected in Thrive Leads. As far as I understand a subscriber who unsubscribed at ActiveCampaign (for example) would still be active in Thrive Leads and still wouldn’t see the optin forms.

    On the other hand it is worth to discuss if an unsubscribed contact would subscribe again … and also if this would have any worth for our business if he subscribed again.

    But however I wanted to understand the whole picture.

  • I’m one of those people getting 100+ emails a day. Most of those emails never get past my “finger filter”unless I know its going to be worth my time. Money I can make more of but time….that’s gone forever. Losing money on a bad product is annoying; losing time to a spammy vendor is enraging.

    Thrive Themes is the one of the marketers that actually give something TO me instead of wanting something FROM me. I haven’t read an email or blog post yet from TT that didnt teach me something of real value. In short, you earned my trust over time and thats the main reason I’m still here. In the end, content will always be king and the only way to stay in the game long term. Great post.

  • It is unbelievable, you guys are fantastic. I love my Thrive package from the first day on I bought it. It helped me to built up a supergoodlooking blog site. And I always think: “It just can´t get any better!” and then you come up with such great stuff. I am really addicted to thrive. You are doing such a great job… I don´t know where I would be without you. Thank you so much for your way ahead thinking, your innovations, the focus on smart selling and smart building up an online business. Thanks that you go that way. Yours, Jennifer

    • Thank you very much, Jennifer! I’m very happy to see that our stuff has made a difference for you. 🙂

  • Hi. Is Thrive Leads now compatible with PHP 7? When I tried to upgrade my site in July last year Thrive Leads stopped working – but now I would like to upgrade.


    • Hello Robert,

      Thrive Leads was already compatible with PHP 7. If you experienced issues from a PHP upgrade, it must have been related to something other than the version. Our support team and possibly your hosting service’s support team could help out.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}